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Thursday, Dec 13th

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NASA’s InSight successfully lands on Mars after ‘seven minutes of terror’

Nasa's InSight lands on Mars

NASA’s latest Mars lander, InSight, successfully touched down on the surface of the Red Planet this afternoon, surviving an intense plunge through the Martian atmosphere. It marks the eighth picture-perfect landing on Mars for NASA, adding to the space agency’s impressive track record of putting spacecraft on the planet. And now, InSight’s two-year mission has begun, one that entails listening for Marsquakes to learn about the world’s interior.

After six and a half months of traveling through space, InSight hit the top of Mars’ atmosphere a little before 3PM ET. It then made a daring descent to the surface, performing a complex multi-step routine that slowed the lander from more than 12,000 miles per hour to just 5 miles per hour before it hit the ground. To get to the surface safely, InSight had to autonomously deploy a supersonic parachute, gather radar measurements, and ignite its thrusters all at the right time. Altogether, the landing took just under seven minutes to complete, prompting the nickname “seven minutes of terror.”

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Planned flying fox cull will harm endangered species, scientists warn

Flying fox cull will harm endangered species: scientists warn Officials in Mauritius are planning to cull flying foxes, the large bat species native to the small African island nation. Farmers blame the bat for commercial fruit losses, but scientists argue a cull is unnecessary and could spell the end for the endangered species.

According to a new study published in the journal Oryx, the Mauritian flying fox is only responsible for a small -- and manageable -- amount of fruit losses. Additionally, scientists determined the species performs a variety of vital ecological services.

The bat's pollination and seed dispersal services are essential to the health of the islands largest tree species and the growth of the nation's threatened forests.

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Mysterious interstellar object floating in space might be alien, say Harvard researchers

Mysterious proe may be alien craft

It's been dubbed a comet, an asteroid, and a new class of interstellar object. Now, a paper from Harvard astronomers suggests one more possibility into the mysterious object nicknamed "Oumuamua": Alien probe.

Researchers focused on whether solar radiation pressure could explain the unusual acceleration of "Oumuamua," the first object entering the Earth's solar system from interstellar space.

The paper said if solar radiation pressure is the reason "Oumuamua" is moving at high speeds, it represents "a new class of thin interstellar material" either made naturally or through artificial means.

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Mars likely to have enough oxygen to support life: study

Mars likely to have eogh oxygen to sustain life

Salty water just below the surface of Mars could hold enough oxygen to support the kind of microbial life that emerged and flourished on Earth billions of years ago, researchers reported.

In some locations, the amount of oxygen available could even keep alive a primitive, multicellular animal such as a sponge, they reported in the journal Nature Geosciences on Monday.

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Astronaut, cosmonaut safely return after ejecting from failed space launch

NASA: ISS crew ejects from failed launchAn American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut were forced to eject from an aborted launch to the International Space Station early Thursday and make an emergency landing.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were aboard the spacecraft when it launched at 4:40 a.m. EDT on a mission to the station. The duo blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft.

Moments after launch, the two were forced to eject from the spacecraft after they encountered trouble with a booster on the rocket.

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1,600 scientists rebuke Cern physicist over gender bias

Alessandro Sturmia rebuked by letter from 1600 physicists

More than 1,600 scientists have backed a campaign condemning the Italian researcher who claimed physics was “invented and built by men”.

They have signed a petition in response to comments made by Prof Alessandro Strumia, of Pisa University, who said male scientists were being discriminated against because of ideology.

After making the comments during a presentation at Cern, the European nuclear research centre in Geneva, on 28 September, Strumia was suspended on Monday pending an investigation for his “unacceptable” presentation.

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Searching for 'Planet X,' scientists discover distant object billions of miles beyond Pluto

Planet X foundAt the very edge of our solar system, scientists have discovered a new, extremely distant object billions of miles beyond Pluto.

Even more interesting: The object has an orbit that hints of an even-farther-out “Super-Earth” or larger “Planet X” which could be lurking out there.

The findings were announced Tuesday by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center.

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